Employee Advocacy: Building a Better Workplace

Posted on: December 28th, 2018

Human capital is the lifeblood of any company. Yet, employee turnover and disengagement rank uppermost in business continuity. The organizational trend towards big data management has, unfortunately, left quite a gap in resources given to talent management. Naturally we need a blend of both strategies for company health.

Employee advocacy needs to be more than generic performance reports, a monologue-filled town hall meeting, and the occasional raise in salary. The employee population is an organizational machine that actualizes the bottom line and sets the reputation of the company. Employees make or break a company.

To date, senior management has paid attention to employee engagement as a means to reduce company costs. The bottom line will always be the most telling benchmark of company performance, and it is no secret that employee turnover packs a punch. The majority of Leadership considers recruitment costs and new employee onboarding costs when working with Human Resources on human capital management issues. However, there are numerous absence costs resulting in process and productivity disruption, as well as very serious exit costs that may come about with involuntary termination.

According to a 2012 Center for American Progress study by Heather Boushey and Sarah Jane Glynn, the quantified business costs of employee turnover is revealing:

  • It costs at least 16% of the annual salary for high-turnover in jobs earning under $30,000 a year.
  • It costs at least 20% of the annual salary for high-turnover in jobs earning under $50,000 a year.
  • Very highly paid jobs and those at the senior or executive levels tend to have disproportionately high-turnover costs, up to 213%.

These above cited costs do not take absence costs, exit costs, and company reputation management costs into consideration.

As we have discussed on numerous occasions with our partners at Nater Associates Ltd., workplace violence issues tend to stem from simple, overlooked cases of employee disengagement that then avalanched into full blown issues. Many of these cases would have been handled effectively with an effective and timely employee advocacy program in place.

A majority of HR programs do not take sentiment factors into consideration, and so miss problems such as discrimination and harassment until it’s too late and a workplace incident such as violence or lawsuit has occurred. Human Resources tend to react punitively to signs of non-performance without tools to discern whether an employee may be facing hidden workplace factors.

As the workplace becomes more agile and complex, CSUITE has begun to explore means to better understand and develop enterprise-wide employee engagement.

An HBR Analytics Services study found an interesting trend: senior managers were pro employee engagement as a catalyst for innovation and company growth, while middle managers saw employee engagement as a means to cut costs.

This is an encouraging trend where CSUITE leadership is fast becoming a proponent of employee advocacy for company growth and innovation. Company growth only happens when employees feel that they can voice concerns as well as ideas in a safe environment.

Vezta & Co. strongly proposes having employee engagement as a required metric to be added to Board of Directors risk management oversight duties to ensure strong governance.

While it is not appropriate to ask the Board to execute employee advocacy, the Board of Directors of any company has the responsibility to set strategic direction along with senior management. Employee engagement is frequently severely overlooked as solely a middle management HR issue that is somehow separate from organizational governance. This gap needs to be fully addressed. We recommend that all Board of Directors risk management responsibilities include effective employee advocacy and engagement that must also detail quantifiable and qualified risk tolerance thresholds to be assessed and monitored at specific intervals.

Cameron Keng of Forbes Magazine reports that the average raise a loyal employee may expect over a 2 year period is 3%, whereas the average negotiated salary increase for the same employee who goes to the competition is anywhere from 10% to 20%. This fact already puts a spoke in the wheel of employee advocacy and retention.

We encourage companies to hire employees with the highest skills set and most positive attitude. Yet, once this talent is on the ‘inside’ we tend to silo their talents and expect our employees to follow procedure without input and many times, without a voice.

In today’s competitive corporate landscape employee advocacy must be fully put to practice to ensure business continuity through human capital development, and employee engagement must be included as a quantifiable metric of company bottom line performance to build a better workplace.

Astrid F. Kowlessar believes strongly in progress. Progress truly strengthens individuals, communities, businesses, and governments. Astrid F. Kowlessar has 15+ years of expertise in comprehensive strategic planning, organizational structure, and employee engagement with emphasis on governance. Astrid is passionate about connecting with people and organizations for value sharing and growth. She is always keen on attracting likeminded institutions to collaborate. After completing degrees in International Studies and Economics/Finance summa cum laude from Barry University, Miami Shores, Florida USA in May 2000, Astrid held the position of Research Analyst, supporting former Undersecretary of Commerce Tony Villamil and his team at the Miami Florida based Washington Economics Group. Astrid assisted Citi’s Corporate Bank deal team as Risk Manager.

In May 2007, she was handpicked as one of thirteen analysts from the entire Latin American region to be part of the Latin American Portfolio Management, headquartered at Banco Citibank, Brazil. She focused on a portfolio of 30 relationships within the energy, infrastructure and retail sectors, concentrated in the Caribbean and Central America. Upon leaving Citigroup, Astrid held the position of Account Manager for Barbadian securities firm Sagicor Merchant Ltd., a Trinidad based subsidiary of Sagicor Life Inc. At Sagicor, Astrid led deal closure on Public Private Partnership estate projects within Barbados and Antigua. Astrid currently is Director, Business Strategy to Vezta & Co., a Miami Florida and Caribbean boutique management consultancy involved in region wide business development, strategic planning and sustainable project management. She was interviewed by the International Alternative Investment Review on “Sustainable Corporate Governance and Disaster Response.” She has been extensively involved in accessible infrastructure capital improvement within Miami-Dade County via Reynolds Smith & Hills.

Astrid served on the Programs & Events Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM). She is a member of the US Women Speakers Association, US lobby group Business Forward., contributor to the Financial Policy Council, and Advisory Board Member of Inzsure Pte Ltd out of Singapore.

5 Responses

  1. Well done! Let’s make 2019 the best ever and I’d love to contribute to optimal well-being and productivity in the workplace.

  2. Great information Felix. There’re a lot of companies that have learned to put their employees first, and then the employees put the customers first. I wholeheartedly agree with hiring the best skilled employees with the best attitudes as a starting point, which is where career testing can be very helpful and cost effective too.

    Hope all is secure with Nater & Associates!

  3. Scott Bump says:

    Thanks for this post, yes I sure have seen and researched similar history first hand. this NP stays with the unit secretary, after four nurse managers in four years, seven in ten. two going on three complete cycles of staff except for this NP and the unit secretary. She was called on her bullying of nurses behavior at least once. Results? no consequence and her excuse? “that’s just the way I am” then this NP went after the two nurses that called her on her behavior, one was transferred and another was given a proposed removal. when the system is that bad? upper management were aware!! what can one do but leave?

    • Felix says:

      Thank you for your continued interest in being a part of the solution, Scott Bump. Your situation is not uncommon nor is it unusual either. For some strange reason, these types of allegations are real and concerning at all healthcare environments where such complaints go unresolved.

      In working with a hospital in NYC, it quickly became apparent that bullying complaints of these type were a function of “inadequate” staff assigned to positions of authority or head nurses who lacked effective leadership skills in resolving personnel, staffing and operation challenges.

      Bullying behavior manifested as a form of the autocratic management style. Staff or supervisors feeling the pressures and demands of the workload, would respond in overly aggressive ways to get compliance or establish dominance, were in fact were receiving tacit support from their superiors who understood their challenges.

      A lack of consequences was the natural response simply because senior leaders/managers viewed the allegation as the behavior of an overly assertive reaction. Afterall, those evaluating the bullying complaints where once in their shoes and understood the challenges, conditions and challenges. This form of irresponsible compassion translated to an impression of permissive behavior and a dismissive concern for the employee’s bullying complaint. All involved understood the realities, but accountability was viewed as acknowledging the bullying complaints.

      While the bullying behavior was in fact inappropriate, they were always improperly adjudicated. Why? Because that’s the way of the culture in the healthcare sector. Senior managers are aware and familiar with the NP/secretary’s behaviors. Her excuse? “that’s just the way I am” is an unfortunate behavioral response known as a cultural behavior that, the healthcare establishment has come to accept as a manageable risk, managing patient-management work relationships.
      Going after the “the two nurses that called her on her behavior” was the accepted form of retaliation for “bucking” the system (not my word, it was the hospital employee’s description of the acceptable behavior.) The retaliatory behaviori for “bucking the system” is removal and/or transfer or bad performance evaluation.

      Yes, the system is perceived to be that bad because its victims believe senior management tolerates such behavior. In viewing such complaints, it appeared to be acceptable business practices in managing the high demands with limited resources. “Upper management’s” alleged complicity is a function of the unintended consequences of doing business.

What are your thoughts?